Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner have said since offseason workouts that the corps of running backs Washington has in camp will be evaluated on a practice-by-practice, play-by-play basis. Friday night's victory over Buffalo provided a glimpse of how that plan will be put in place during preseason games.
Incumbent starter Clinton Portis opened the game with the first offensive unit and carried six times for 22 yards. Shanahan said afterward that the plan was for Portis to play between 15 and 20 plays, and then turn it over to second-year back Ryan Torain and rookie Keiland Williams. That pair combined for 113 yards on 28 carries, including two touchdowns from Williams.
The result: veterans Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, both signed as free agents, didn't play against Buffalo. That was, Shanahan said, by design. Johnson will get the bulk of the carries in next Saturday's game against Baltimore at FedEx Field, and Parker will get the most work on Aug. 26 at the New York Jets.
"It's kind of the only way you can evaluate running backs," Shanahan said. "You just can't put them in for three or four plays and take them out."
Parker, who had spent his entire career with Pittsburgh, said Shanahan told the players of the plan on Wednesday and said, "I'm okay with it."
"You just got to play," Parker said. "It ain't really just on that one game. It's really just practicing and everything that's involved. I'm all for the challenge."
Johnson is the better fantasy bet of the two, but fantasy teams will be hurting if they have to rely on either player. Clinton Portis projects to be the best fantasy back in Washington's "Over The Hill" backfield.